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What police look for in a DUI driver

Despite roughly 30 years of DUI checkpoints in Florida, questions continue about whether they are legal, and whether motorists must comply with police if they are waved aside. Both answers are “yes.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of sobriety checkpoints as a valid means of deterring drunk driving in a 1990 ruling. The court viewed the use of them as important to states’ abilities to protect its citizens.

Included in the ruling are some basic guidelines for their use. Law enforcement officials must either stop all vehicles or stop them at regular intervals, such as every fourth or 15th vehicle, depending on traffic conditions. Justices also said that checkpoints need to be apparent and well-advertised beforehand.

FindLaw notes that police officers use different methods to determine whether a driver is drunk. If a motorist swerves or misses a red light, police may pull the driver over to check for signs of drunkenness. The point of being pulled over, whether on the road or at a checkpoint, is to allow the police to engage in close observation of the driver. They are looking for signs such as blurred eyes and speech or alcohol on the driver’s breath.

If the police do notice additional signs of drunk driving, they will likely have the driver get out of the car for a field sobriety test. A motorist may be asked to take several tests, such as repeating a sentence, standing on one leg or walking a straight line, which can be difficult for someone who is drunk. If the driver fails the field tests, the police are likely to arrest him on suspicion of DUI.

At the police station, the driver will typically take a breath, blood or urine test to determine his blood alcohol content. For drivers who test at a BAC of 0.08 percent or more, police will likely charge them with DUI.

To defend a client charged with DUI, attorneys have a few options. One is to question the accuracy of the math formula used in breathing and urine tests to determine the BAC (blood tests are a direct measure and therefore, are more accurate). Another challenge may be at what point the driver receives a Miranda warning. Police may question motorists during a stop because they are not under arrest at that point. Once a driver has been arrested, however, police must give the warning.

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